Protests and rockets as Gulf states sign deals with Israel

Tamara Nassar

The Electronic Intifada  /  September 15, 2020

At a White House ceremony on Tuesday, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain officially established diplomatic relations with Israel.

The signing of the US-brokered Abraham Accords formalizes decades of clandestine relations between Israel and the two Gulf states.

US President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Emirati foreign minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and his Bahraini counterpart Abdullatif bin Rashid Alzayani all spoke before the signing.

Al Nahyan and Alzayani also signed separate treaties with Trump and Netanyahu.

Bahrain’s was termed a “declaration of peace,” while the UAE’s a “treaty of peace.”

The four leaders signed copies of the documents in English, Arabic and Hebrew.

As the ceremony took place on the White House lawn, there were protests in support of Palestinian rights in nearby streets of the US capital.

The contents of the agreements remain undisclosed, besides that the UAE-Israel “treaty of peace” involves full normalization of relations.

Trump greeted each leader separately before the ceremony, and held a press conference in the Oval Office with Netanyahu present.

Trump gifted Netanyahu “a key to the White House.”

Legal authorization

Netanyahu led the Israeli delegation to Washington on Monday on an aircraft named after the central Israeli city of Petah Tikva, built in part on the ruins of the Palestinian village of Fajja.

Zionist militias oblitered Fajja in 1948, expelling its Palestinian inhabitants.

Notably, Benny Gantz, Israel’s deputy prime minister and leader of the Blue and White coalition, and Israeli foreign minister Gabi Ashkenazi were absent from the Washington ceremony.

At the last minute, Netanyahu was informed that he was not legally authorized to sign the agreements, and required Ashkenazi to issue him a power of attorney to do so, according to Haaretz.

Ashkenazi agreed to authorize Netanyahu to sign the deal on condition that it be approved by the Israeli government before going into effect.

Who’s next?

The UAE and Israel announced the US-brokered agreement on 13 August, after which Bahrain immediately began negotiations on its own deal.

Bahrain announced it was normalizing ties with Israel on 11 September.

Trump told reporters in the Oval Office that several other states are lined up to sign similar agreements with Israel, but did not name them.

A Sudanese diplomat reportedly attended the ceremony on Tuesday – further confirmation of Sudan’s increasingly close ties with Israel.

Oman congratulated Bahrain for its agreement with Israel.

There has been speculation that Oman and Sudan could soon normalize relations with Israel.

Oman’s friendly disposition towards Israel can be traced back as far as the 1970s, after the late Sultan Qaboos took over the Gulf state.

Since then, at least three sitting Israeli prime ministers have visited the capital Muscat, including Netanyahu in 2018.

Two-state solution

Bahrain’s foreign minister Alzayani affirmed that the agreements are founded on a commitment to the moribund two-state solution.

However, Arab and European governments routinely declare support for a two-state solution or a “peace process” they do nothing to advance and are complicit in undermining.

Israel’s unchecked violent colonization of Palestinian land, systemic expansion of illegal settlements, military occupation in the West Bank and siege of Gaza have eliminated the prospects for such an agreement.

Widespread rejection

The last time a similar ceremony took place at the White House was in July 1994, when the late King Hussein of Jordan signed a declaration with Israel’s late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin that led to their peace treaty a few months later.

A year earlier, Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat signed the Oslo Accords on the White House lawn.

While there remains an Israeli embassy in the Jordanian capital today, the majority of the Jordanian public and members of parliament reject the peace treaty and repeatedly call for its cancellation.

Similarly, Bahrainis held widespread protests in the capital Manama and other cities on Tuesday against their country’s embrace of Israel.

Bahrainis also protested outside their country’s London embassy:

Palestinians across the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as in cities in Israel, also protested the agreements:

During the ceremony, two rockets were fired from Gaza towards the southern Israeli cities of Ashdod and Ashkelon.

Israeli medical sources said one man suffered light injuries and another moderate injuries as a result.

The rockets – likely intended to draw attention away from the carefully staged show in Washington to the dire situation in the besieged Gaza Strip – imperil a fragile truce reached at the end of last month.

The truce came after Israel subjected Gaza to weeks of nightly bombing and tank fire in response to incendiary balloons launched from the territory that caused fires in Israeli agricultural fields.

The balloons are a form of protest against what the UN acknowledges is a 14-year-old illegal Israeli blockade that has devastated Gaza’s economy, water, sanitation and healthcare systems.

The rockets and any violent Israeli response give the lie to claims that the events on the White House lawn have done anything to advance the prospects of peace.

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada

Ali Abunimah contributed reporting